Lois Catherine Banks Richard was born on July 31, 1931 to Ernest Banks and Edna Porch Banks in Pasadena, California. The first of two children, Lois and her family lived in diverse Northwest Pasadena neighborhoods her entire childhood. Lois grew up around social change as her parents were active in community activities. Her father taught Adult Education night classes in their home and her mother served as Area Captain for the Community Chest (United Way) and spear-headed the de-segregation of the Pasadena YWCA pool.
As a result of her parents’ encouragement and activism, Lois was confident and active in academic councils, social clubs and student government during high school and college. Lois graduated from Pasadena High School at the age of 16 after skipping two grades. In 1949, while attending Pasadena City College, Lois was the only African-American student on the English Council, Red Cross Council and elected to the Associated Student Body Cabinet. Following in her father’s footsteps, she attended UCLA and graduated in 1952 with a BA degree in Education.
After meeting and dating at UCLA, Lois and Rodney Richard Jr., were married on September 6, 1953 at All Saints Church in Pasadena. They lived in Fort Lee, Virginia during Rod’s two year Army ROTC commitment. Lois and Rod moved back to Pasadena, built their first home and had two children -Rodney Armand III and Leslie Allyson.
Lois started her teaching career in the Compton School District but soon worked in the Pasadena Unified School District at Jackson and Washington Elementary Schools. Her students absolutely loved her ever encouraging personality and positive teaching style (four of her 1959 sixth-grade students visited her in 2015 to show their life-long appreciation).
In 1966, Lois led the initial growth and development of the Pasadena Head Start program for underprivileged pre-school children and their families as a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War On Poverty. She oversaw the formation of several new services including three care centers, the Home Start program and the Head Start Enrichment program. These programs also assisted numerous young women (including parents, volunteers and staff) in graduating from high school and college and also served as the model for several other childcare programs. In 1973, Lois obtained her Master of Arts degree from Azusa Pacific College by taking night classes while working full-time and caring for her family. Lois’ innovation at Pasadena Head Start led her to be elected as State President – Association of Head Start Administrators and appointed to the National Executive Board. Over a seven year period, Lois also managed the family while Rod, who after the age of 40, attended medical school and residency.
After 13 years of innovative service at Head Start, Lois retired to establish and manage Rod’s pediatric private practice in Pasadena. While managing the growth of Rod’s multiple successful practices in Pasadena and East Los Angeles, Lois enthusiastically established relationships with and encouraged each parent to see their children’s unique gifts and talents.
Throughout her life, Lois was known for her brilliant mind, excellent writing skills and her commitment to serving under-represented children and communities. She was active on many civic, educational, community service and social justice organizations including the American Association of University Women, Pasadena Heritage, NAACP, City of Pasadena Resource Allocation Committee, Commission on the Status of Women, Pacific Oaks School Child’s Steering Committee, Committee to Oversee Human Experiment at Caltech and JPL, Black Women’s Forum, Charles Drew Medical Auxiliary, The Pasadena Links and Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services. She served on boards at the Lanterman Regional Center, Pasadena Child Health Foundation, Pasadena Day Nursery, Urban Coalition, Five Acres and Sequoyah School. She was also a charter member of the Delta Sigma Theta – Pasadena Alumni Chapter and an early member of the Pasadena Chapter of Jack & Jill.
In 1979, Lois ran for a Pasadena City Director (Council) seat and obtained the majority of her district’s votes. In a mandated runoff, she lost the election due to the citywide vote tally. Lois became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by her along with over a dozen organizations including the ACLU and NAACP. The result of these efforts led to watershed change in civic voting rules and allowed for much more diverse civic representation in Pasadena (1982) and throughout the country.
During over 30 years of service, Lois received numerous awards including California State Assembly – Woman of the Year in 1988 and recognition from National Head Start Association. Lois and Rod opened their home for political and community fundraising events and social affairs for young and old. On a personal note they literally opened their home numerous times for extended periods to those in transition.
Lois could not go anywhere in the Pasadena area without seeing extremely grateful former students, Head Start participants, employees or long-time friends. Extremely proud of her family’s five generation Pasadena roots (since 1898), in 2011 Lois entered and placed second in A Little Old Lady from Pasadena Contest sponsored by the City of Pasadena, Pasadena Star News and the Rose Bowl. Upon the recognition and true to her life’s work, she stated that she “wanted to be sure there was a little old lady representing people who looked like me.”
Lois enjoyed socializing, entertaining, reading, family road trips, camping, sewing, civic participation, telling family stories and most of all interacting with and talking about her children and grandchildren.
Lois was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband and nephews Michael Harris and Blake Edwards. She is survived by her son Rodney III, daughter Leslie Richard, MD and son-in-law Richard Craven, sister Virgie Edwards, grandchildren Jordan, Jade, Maya, Nicholas, nieces and nephews Drew Edwards (Johanna), Lynette Speed Anderson (Randolph), Horace Speed (Joyce), Gary Speed, Vincent Harris (Celeste), Trevor Harris (Kamela), extended family and friends. She will be greatly missed by all still her legacy and loving spirit live on.